California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger confirmed a proposal floated earlier to open the prison gates next fiscal year to 22,159 lower-risk inmates and enact new parole policies that could result in some 6,249 fewer reincarcerations the year after that, the Sacramento Bee reports. His $1.1 billion corrections budget-cutting proposal would mean 6,000 job cuts in the prison department, including 2,000 layoffs, although attrition could knock that number way down.
If the day of reckoning is at hand for California’s tough sentencing policies, somebody forgot to tell the Republicans. Some were restrained and some were bombastic, but all were definitive: Letting prisoners out in the final 20 months of their term, even if they’re low-risk, as the governor is proposing, is about the worst way imaginable to fix the state’s $14 billion budget deficit. Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, the GOP point man on corrections, said the proposal amounts to a sucker punch to Republicans who supported Assembly Bill 900, the $7.9 billion prison expansion and rehabilitation plan. “It’s a betrayal,” Spitzer said. “AB 900 promised us no early releases, and that’s why Republicans voted overwhelmingly for it. Now, some people will be doing less time if they’re sentenced to prison than if they’re sentenced to county jail.” Schwarzenegger, Spitzer said, “reneged on a promise.”